Monday, May 23, 2005

Poor Need GMOs to Buy Fossil Fuels

An article in the Washington Post reports on the study from my previous post (hat tip: Junk Science.com). That study promoted the use of charcoal over wood because it burns cleaner. But, as the article points out, that doesn't help reduce such decidedly non-environmental side effects of biomass fuels: deforestation.

The article quotes a dissenting point of view on the charcoal proposal from a review by Robert J. van der Plas, who is described as "an energy consultant in the Netherlands:"

In a review of the Bailis team's study, he wrote that "kerosene is available in every nook and cranny of the urban and rural environment" in Africa.

The real problem, he noted in a study of energy use in Chad published earlier this year, is money. "A household would have to at least double its cooking fuel budget to switch to modern fuels, and there are not many households willing -- or able -- to do this."
Hmmm, this sounds familiar. Economic development is better for the environment! "Rich" people don't have to cut down trees for firewood or squat in piles of animal dung to collect it and dry it for fuel, or breathe the toxic fumes of cook stoves.

The less time women spend collecting fuel, the more time they have for education or careers, thus fighting poverty and promoting gender equality. The less smoke children breathe, the more likely they are to live to adulthood.

I can hear the cry from the eco-radicals now, "But we musn't rob them of their traditional ways!" I think every culture has passed through such traditions, and all societies look forward to leaving them behind as quickly as possible.

So how to increase the wealth of rural farmers so they can buy the kerosene they need to save millions of women and children? How about transgenic crops that produce more food per acre?

Developing countries are playing an important role in the expansion of genetically modified (GM) crops, and are set to play an increasingly important role both in growing and researching the plants in the next ten years, says a report from the Council for Biotechnology Information.

Globally, planting of GM crops has increased at an annual rate of 15 per cent since they were first introduced in the mid-1990s, says the UN Food and Agriculture organization (FAO). ...

In its report, the Council for Biotechnology argues that developing nations stand to benefit most from this growth. It says the gross domestic product of poor nations adopting GM crops could increase by as much as two per cent by 2014.

Prabhu Pingali and Terri Raney of the FAO's Agricultural and Development Economics Division, told SciDev.Net that sustaining the 15 per cent growth rate would depend on the development of new crops meeting the needs of developing nations, and on ensuring such countries can access and adopt them.

"The biggest question, however, is whether these solutions will receive regulatory approval and consumer acceptance," say Pingali and Raney.

And what groups constantly lobby for strict, Byzantine regulations that discourage the research needed to develop the necessary new crops and make it impossible for any farmer to sell his or her genetically engineered foods by whipping up public hysteria with unfounded junk-science claims? The anti-human, so-called environmental groups.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Fossil Fuels Save Lives

Fossil Fuels are a clean alternative to the massive amounts of biomass fuels (i.e., wood and dung) currently used by the poor around the world for heating and cooking. The pampered environmentalists of the West have no concept what they are doing to the poor in the developing world when they insist that they stick to "sustainable" energy resources, by which they mean the burning of "biomass" fuels -- sounds a lot better than wood and dung. The smoke from such romantic fuels is literally killing millions around the world every year:

The African continent depends on wood and charcoal for cooking and heating homes. In 2000, nearly 470 million tons of wood were consumed in homes in sub-Saharan Africa in the form of firewood and charcoal, more wood per capita than any other region in the world.

More than 1.6 million people, primarily women and children, die prematurely each year worldwide (400,000 in sub-Saharan Africa) from respiratory diseases caused by the pollution from such fires. The study finds that smoke from wood fires used for cooking will cause an estimated 10 million premature deaths among women and children by 2030 in Africa.

...the best situation in Africa would be to transition from biomass fuels to petroleum-based fossil fuels such as kerosene and liquid propane gas, which can prevent between 1.3 and 3.7 million premature deaths, depending on the speed of transition. The researchers argue, however, that current economic conditions and energy infrastructure in Africa make petroleum-based fossil fuels an unlikely option.

The authors of the study also wring their hands about carbon emissions, but aside from such de rigeur "citizen of the world" angst, the report helps bring to light disturbing facts that other voices have been shouting in the desert for some time now -- voices which are reflexively labeled as "right-wing" corporate shills, regardless of the evidence for such a claim, and then safely ignored.

But studies such as the one quoted above are just confirming facts that were easily verified all along. But many don't want you to know this reality: those voices crying out in the wilderness were telling the truth:

In India alone, 150 million households rely on firewood, dung and agriculture waste for cooking, analyst Barun Mitra points out. These fuels are 20 times less efficient, 20 times more polluting, than electricity or natural gas.

As a result, four million children and mothers worldwide die every year from lung infections. Millions more perish from unsafe water, malnutrition and disease, in regions where clinics and hospitals are few and often have electricity only intermittently, if at all. These communities desperately need abundant, reliable, affordable electricity – for basic necessities that wealthy countries take for granted, to create economic opportunities and jobs, and help them end the vicious cycle of foreign aid, corruption, poverty, disease and early death.

But in the name of protecting the planet from dams, fossil fuels, global warming and development that might lure people away from "indigenous lifestyles," Western activists continue to block energy projects. In their view, wind and solar are the only "appropriate" sources for these nations.

The Rainforest Action Network and International Rivers Network pressure banks and energy companies to abandon hydroelectric and fossil fuel projects, and support only renewables. Friends of the Earth is "proud" that it's stopped over 300 hydroelectric projects.

But why? Why condemn millions to unnecessary suffering and death?

That's a very good question. Why don't you ask them yourself? All the groups named above have web sites. Ask them why they oppose hydoelectric dam projects and fossil fuel projects that would bring electricity to millions of the world's most desperately poor?

And if you don't get a good answer -- a realistic answer that takes into account the value of human life -- maybe you can ask yourself a question. Why would you give one dime to such organizations, no matter what other good things they might do? There are other organizations working for the environment that are responsible.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Big Lies

How can educated people believe such obvious, outright lies? I guess it becomes fashionable when those with the most education, money, influence, and power in a culture believe something. The masses don't want to be seen as ignorant and uneducated, so they go along.

SCOTLAND's chief scientific adviser has warned of the "extremely high risks" to power supplies if the country is forced to rely on wind farms and renewable sources for its energy.

Professor Wilson Sibbett, who advises the Scottish Executive, declared that nuclear power will be needed to back up renewables, in order to guarantee energy supplies.

Renewable sources such as wind, wave and tidal power should be exploited, he said, but warned that they are too inefficient to be relied upon as heavily as ministers plan.

"I think there is the understanding that nuclear power will have to play some role, and whether you decide to maintain the current stations or contemplate building a new one, that has to be part of the equation."

Sibbett said that if Scotland were to rely on renewables for much of its power supply "the risk would be the lack of availability of supply".

(Hat Tip: JunkScience.com)

None of this should come as a surprise to anyone. It should have been obvious all along. Solar and wind power generators only work when the wind blows or sun shines. What to do when you need power at other times? You can't build batteries to store the energy -- they'd be enormous and the cost would be way beyond anything remotely reasonable. And even if you did try to build something to store the energy, there's no guarantee you'd get enough solar or wind energy to store in a reasonable amount of time at a reasonable cost -- both in money and real estate. Both solar radiation and wind are very insubstantial sources of energy.

Here's a simple observation: The only way to generate the power needed when you need it is through the utilization of a concentrated fuel source. We have a few options, but fossil fuels and nuclear fuels remain the best choices.

Just-so stories of green utopias powered by solar cells and wind mills should have been seen for what they were long ago: mirages that lead nations to their deaths in the wastelands of brown-outs and energy shortages, their last days devolving into chaos and despair as their economies collapse and their industries decay, desiccate, and disintegrate.

It seems like many nations are just now starting to waken from their slumber on energy issues. They lived on the preparations of those who went before them, believing in energy-faeries who would make clean, safe, abundant energy for them just because their motives were so much more pure than those who provided the power on which they suckled daily. They denigrated the very sources of that cheap, reliable power which made them the wealthiest and healthiest human beings who have ever lived on the planet. But now that they're realizing that they've been led down the garden path by childish fantasies, is it too late? Nuclear power plants don't spring up overnight - they take decades to plan and build.

Given what we know now, why would we continue to listen to the other scary stories from the same wolves?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Forest for the Trees

"Lost in the Woods", a letter from Sofia Valenzuela & Steven H. Strauss, was published in Nature Biotechnology 23, May 2005 (Hat Tip: AgBioView). It succintly sums up the issues with respect to progress in the field of forest biotechnology. The news isn't good and they don't hesitate to name the culprit: "green fundamentalist religion" (note, in the following excerpts, some paragraphs have been broken up to improve readability in a constrained blog format):

Most of the major forestry companies in Chile are effectively turning away from transgenic research because of concerns about activist boycotts and their European markets.

...the thorny regulatory environment ... treats genetic engineering itself as dangerous by choosing to regulate every transgenic product in virtually the same way (the so-called 'case-by-case' approach). This extreme 'precautionary' system effectively precludes the use of trial-and-error, empirical methods that characterize all tree breeding programs.

...vandalism has led to local decisions in places such as British Columbia, Canada, to ban all transgenic field research with forest tree species, despite any scientific rationale to do so.

...such draconian regulations are in place owing largely to the scare tactics and pressure on government officials from anti-genetically modified organism (GMO) activist organizations, which hope to see all transgenic trees regulated based on imagined worst case scenarios.

These regulations also ignore the reality that conventional breeding and silviculture, not just genetic engineering, also bring about substantial changes in wood structure, lignin, flowering, growth rate and many other attributes. Yet there is little call for their stringent regulation.

It is time that the absurd, anti-scientific ... claims that all Agrobacterium tumefaciens or biolistics-delivered genes are somehow capable of causing 'destruction and contamination' of wild forests be identified as the scare-mongering that it is.

It will take strong political leaders and highly engaged scientists empowered by public funds for outreach, to stand-up and prevent green fundamentalist religion from trumping what could be a highly green new tool for breeding practice.

Instead of genetic engineering helping to produce more efficient forms of plantation forestry that generate cost-efficient renewable energy and biobased products, we are instead being forced to continue planting more tree farms and harvesting more wild trees than necessary. How green is that?

Sofia Valenzuela & Steven H. Strauss edited, "The BioEngineered Forest: Challenges to Science and Society."

Friday, May 06, 2005

Killer Politics

Back in February of 2001, Roger Bate and Kendra Okonski wrote a chilling On Point summary, "When Politics Kills: Malaria and the DDT Story," of their paper by the same name for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Here are a few soul-wrenching excerpts:

One of the most effective methods [of fighting malaria], and probably the cheapest, is to spray inside houses and buildings with insecticides to repel, irritate, and kill the mosquito that carries the malaria parasite—the vector control method. One of the oldest pesticides is still the best for controlling mosquitoes; this is dichlorodiphenyltrichlorethane, commonly known as DDT. Despite a surge in malaria incidence in the developing world, DDT production is decreasing.

The heroic malaria-eradication program of the post-war years used DDT as its primary weapon. This program succeeded in North America and southern Europe, and greatly reduced incidence in many other countries. But eradication was not possible for many developing nations. Public-health activity in these countries is wholly or partly reliant on funding from overseas aid agencies. Since donor countries frown on DDT, these agencies are extremely reluctant to countenance its use in other countries.

Today there are once again millions of cases of malaria in India, and over 300 million cases worldwide—most in sub-Saharan Africa. Cases of malaria in South Africa have risen by over 1000 percent in the past five years. Only those countries that have continued to use DDT, such as Ecuador, have contained or reduced malaria.

No study in the scientific literature has adequately shown any human health problem resulting from DDT. Therefore, low-dose use of DDT indoors is unlikely to cause any significant harm to the environment or people.

Yet in 1995, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) proposed an international treaty to reduce and/or eliminate 12 Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), including DDT, from worldwide production and use. The result of such a process is obvious. As environmentalists have pushed to eliminate DDT over the years, the relationship between falling DDT use and increasing malaria cases is very clear.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Greens Know Better

Finally, after the greens and their willing accomplices in the media scared the world about nuclear energy for decades, the truth is finally starting to come out. Nuclear is becoming a live option again.

Roger Bate furthers the process of outing the truth with his article Chernobyl Comes of Age at NRO.

The complete destruction of the reactor killed 31 people, including 28 from radiation exposure, most of whom were firefighters working on the roof. A further 209 people on site were treated for acute radiation poisoning and 134
cases were confirmed (all of whom recovered). Since then, an increase in childhood thyroid cancer has been reported, although it is not certain that this is not due to increased surveillance. There has been no other increase in radiation-induced disease, congenital abnormalities, or adverse pregnancy outcomes.

If this had been an ordinary industrial accident, safety standards would have been improved, and that would have been the end of the story. For instance, who (apart from those directly affected) remembers the explosion at a fertilizer plant in Toulouse, France, in September 2001? It killed 30 people, injured more than 2000, and damaged or destroyed 3000 buildings.

No, the biggest tragedy of Chernobyl was that radioactivity was governed by preposterous safety regulations that forced the authorities to take extreme and damaging action against the very people they were trying to protect.

And, of course, this tragedy was milked by the anti-nuke activists for all it was worth, effectively halting the construction of new nuclear power plants in the United States for decades. Roger Bate continues with the true "fallout" from this tragedy - and it wasn't from the radiation:
Nearly 400,000 people were forcibly evacuated from areas around Chernobyl where radiation was actually lower than the normal background levels in Cornwall and five times lower than at Grand Central Station in New York

Please read Roger Bate's article for the details, but it boils down to this: people suffered unnecessarily and unborn children died as a result of the hysteria over radiation levels that were less than the normal background radiation in places such as Grand Central Station. And I'm sure high-altitude, mountainous regions, such as parts of Denver Colorado, probably have higher background radiation than the area around Chernobyl that was evacuated; not to mention other well know radiation hot spots such as flying in a plane from New York to San Francisco.

And then the lights started to go out in San Francisco. But we all know it was that evil international corporation, Enron, not the greens and their media stooges.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

European Fascists Cause Deaths of Hundreds of Chinese Farmers Per Year

(Hat Tip: AgBioView): GM rice varieties being tested in China have some great benefits, including increaseing yeild by 6 to 9 percent, reduction of pesticides, and reduction of farmer mortality:
Overall, use of the GM rice enabled the farmers to reduce pesticide use by 15 pounds per acre, an 80-per cent reduction when compared with pesticide use by farmers using conventional varieties.

"Annually, more than 50,000 farmers are poisoned in farm fields, of which some 400-500 die," Prof Huang said. But the survey indicated that none of the farmers in the trial reported experiencing adverse health effects from pesticide use in either 2002 or 2003.

Looks like a great product! They should start using this stuff yesterday, right!?

Wrong! The Fascist NGOs of America and especially Europe tell China, "Don't even think about it!":
China's decision could influence the future of GM crops in the rest of the world but it is taking longer to reach than many scientists expected. "It's as though China is watching Europe while the world watches China.," said Prof Mike Gale of the John Innes Centre, Norwich.

Prof Michael Lipton of Sussex University added that China has delayed making a decision because it is worried that, if it exports GM rice, it could face a boycott because of the anti GM sentiment in Europe and campaigning of green groups.